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My MIL is in an ALF for 3 months. She would call here numerous times a day. I would always pick up - at first - to try to reassure her and answer any questions she had. My idea was to support her all I could, then taper off as she got involved in activities there. I started the taper/weaning after a month, seemed like she was doing OK, but this month it has ramped up. I have decided not to pick up on all calls, especially the very early morning ones, hoping she will learn that's not a good time. Afraid she'll start calling even earlier. Early this morning, another phone call where she is crying, begging for me to call her, accusing me of not caring how she's doing because ONE day went by where she didn't talk to me. I don't know if I'm doing the right thing or not by not taking all her calls. I simply cannot be on the phone with her all day long. How should I handle this situation?

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I feel everyone's pain. My mom is in a nursing home, and has the beginnings of dementia. She used to call me constantly all hours of the day and night, confused with sundowners, etc, etc. She would call the police, and everyone who's number she remembered at all hours of the day and night. Here was my solution.......I bought her a desk phone in her favorite color, red, that does not have any buttons to dial out. But I can call in.....so I told her that this was the rules of the facility, in order to have phone access, but that I will call her. So I call her in the morning, after lunch, and in the evening before she goes to bed. If there is an emergency, the facility will call me, so I do not feel guilty about this at all. It's working well for us, and my mom is now fine with it. You can find them everywhere online. I got mine on Amazon. I hope this helps.
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Aria - the final straw for me was a few days before Christmas. Mom went into the nursing home the second week of November. It had been a holy nightmare getting her there and everyday since. I was behind in everything from the situation and just getting ready to leave my house to START my Christmas shopping when mom called. Mom said she had had diarrhea and it was "everywhere" - she wanted me to come over and "help" her clean it up - which is momspeak for me cleaning it all up. I asked her if she had pushed the call button for help. "No". So I told her I wasn't coming over and told her to push the freakin' button and hung up. I then called the home and told them about the call. I left to go shopping - lets just say the shine was gone from my holiday spirit but I was pretty pleased with myself overall. I never asked the home if the situation was real or if it had been another ploy to get me there - btw - I was visiting three times a week as it was - maybe why my xmas shopping wasn't done, ya think? Mom gave me the silent treatment for a bit but I didn't mind - just made for shorter visits and at least no calls from her, lol! Now, six months later I too, think mom has forgotten how to use the phone. Often times when I visit the phone is hung up upside down - making it off the hook. I've asked her if she talks to her friends on the phone, she says "yes" but I really don't think so. I'd like to take it out of her room as if she's not using it, it's an expense we could eliminate, but oh well...At least she's no longer terrorizing me with the da*# thing!
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Hi Babalou ... She hasn't seen a geriatric psychiatrist. Hoping for a referral from GP soon. We all feel she is depressed & definitely very anxious. Has become worse since being in AL? Staff say she goes to some of the activities but she needs coaxing & prodding to attend. Oddly, she tells me that she only leaves her suite to go to meals. Whenever I suggest activities to her the answer is always the same - she says she doesn't want to, doesn't even want to try. Mostly, when I try to get her to join in, it's as if I'm talking to a wall.

Interesting you mention assistance from staff because I just told her the very same when she wanted us to go up there immediately & pick up something that had fallen over. I told her to call the front desk & resisted the urge to tell her that's why she's shelling out that large sum every month (because money has always been a touchy subject with her). We've come to realize there will always be a 'crisis' (phone suddenly no longer works, can't open a window, can't find her pants, can't find her teeth, has lost or someone stole her purse, key, glasses, phone list, etc. She is absolutely distraught when she can't find something). Staff can handle those things & have done so with respect & courtesy. My hat is off to them!
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Has your MIL been to a geriatric psychiatrist? It sounds as though she may have anxiety and possibly depression. Is she going to activities? How does the staff say she is getting on?

It took a long time for us to get my mom to stop calling us with her "issues" of plumbing, light bulbs, ants, whatever. "Call the front desk mom", we'd say. And when she'd persist, we"d say, "that's what you're paying them $5000. a month for mom" She'd call.
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jeannegibbs ... ah, there's always a silver lining. Thank you for reminding me. It's sad but it will go the way it goes. It is definitely helping knowing others have gone through this as well. I'm really grateful for this site and that everyone is sharing their experiences and ideas.
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Aria, I hope it is helping to see that other people have faced what you are facing, found it as difficult as you are finding it, but somehow survived! Sounds like you are on the right track and you'll get through this, too.

On another discussion site there was a lawyer whose mother called her repeatedly throughout the day and night. At the office the secretary could screen the calls, but taking 6 calls from Boss's Mom within 10 minutes put a real dent in the secretary's productivity! The daughter had started the "don't answer the calls" process when the problem solved itself. Her mother could no longer work the phone! While Daughter was sad about her mother's decline, she at least had that silver lining.

My mother cannot work a phone. (Sometimes I see her trying to talk on her tv remote.) When I can't visit her I wish I could at least call and talk to her. But really, this is for the best.

Keep in mind ... this too shall pass.
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Sunnygirl1, I really don't want to take our number from her (ok, yes, secretly I would like to but my husband wouldn't hear of it). When he gets home from work and she starts calling, I announce "your shift" to him. Now I am noticing that even he is being choosey about picking up. You are so right, it drives one to distraction and is so unnecessary.

MsMadge, Yes, MIL has her own phone in her suite. She is convinced it only works some of the time but it is operator error - we have checked several times. My MIL also spent hours and hours on the phone when she was in her own house. She has lots of friends, and she calls them all as well, but I get the majority and the dailies.

She also had phone numbers written all over on slips of paper on the backs of packages and random pieces of cardboard, envelopes, all over the house. It was a real mess. I decided to try to wean her or taper off once she got settled in AL but that hasn't worked. I will continue to screen calls because I know talking to her each and every time she calls is not helping her, and it's exasperating for me. It sure is awful though. Dam*ed if I do, dam*ed if I don't.
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Does she have a personal phone in Alf?

My mom is in memory care and does not have access to a phone and the staff only calls if there is a real need

While she was living at home she would spend hours sitting at the phone making calls and writing down phone numbers on paper and then hiding them all over the place including her bra

I maintained a separate cell phone just for her to call me and while at work would take a few calls and then turn it off - this was very difficult since then she would not be able to reach me in a real emergency

Even now she begs me for a phone so she can call me when she's a scared which is 24/7 - while I would like to talk to her each night before she goes to bed I have to keep telling myself it won't really calm her down and might upset her more if I give her cell phone and don't answer it
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It can drive you to distraction and is very unnecessary. If I knew then, what I know now, I would not tolerate it. My cousin didn't even remember the calls, so they were of no benefit to her. Can you take the phone number from her? You can instruct the staff to not provide her the number and only call you if it's urgent. She will adjust. You can call her every couple of days when you have the time to devote to it. Trying to settle her on the phone with multiple calls throughout the day is like chasing a tiger's tail. lol
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Thanks, Rainmom. Oh yes! This is exactly what is happening. Sometimes I swear I'm gonna pitch the doggone phone over the fence. I realized I had to stop picking up every call when I felt my nerves jump every time the phone rang. I feel awful about it. I'm realizing that no matter how I reassure her or do her bidding, it has never helped her, not one bit. It's so disheartening getting those ranting/raving/crying tantrum phone calls when you've tried so hard to help make her comfortable.

Good idea to add a special ring tone just for MIL on the landline and another for the ALF. Doing that right away! Thank goodness she doesn't have my cell number (and never will).

I'll also check out the movie you recommended. Thanks so much for sharing your experience with this.
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Aria - if I had to pick one single issue that has been the most difficult for me over the past 5 1/2 years of looking after my parents - and later just mom - it would be the da*# telephone. Mom calling at all hours to ask if it's 3:00 am or pm. Mom calling to ask why I hadn't come over that day - when it was 6:am. Mom calling, sobbing for me to come get her. Mom calling, screaming at me that I'm a horrible daughter. Mom calling...Then there's moms friends calling, the nursing home calling, the doctor calling, the bank calling, the insurance co calling...on and on. I counted once and it went 47 straight days with someone calling. And I'm not talking a five minute conversation either - sometimes hours everyday! I thought I was going to loose my mind! I had a hard time not answering as usually that meant a bigger mess to clean up after hearing the message. The worst were moms screaming/sobbing rants as those left me an emotional wreck. It got to the point where I was becoming physically ill went the phone rang. I learned a thing or two that's helped. Mom has her own ring tone and so does the nursing home. Often I can ignore moms calls but I always pick up if it's the home. Only certain places/people have my cell number - the more important ones. All else I defer to my landline. I look at caller ID and pick up or not depending on what I am doing or my current emotional state. At first, not picking up was so hard - I would stand there looking at it ring, hand twitching. But I tell you what - not always picking up was very easy to get use to once I got the hang of it! Also - I've talked to the nursing home about when to call and when not to - I don't need to know about day ones typical diarreha! I wish you the best - it's hard - but just say "no" to picking up the da*# thing every time it rings! P.S. If you like movies check out Hanging Up with Meg Ryan - you'll relate!
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